I do not remember Franco’s death. The first transatlantic flight of Concorde, perhaps. I remember the coming of Mike Tyson as if it were someone else’s story, not mine. The withdrawal of Thatcher from the leadership race, smothered in feelings of a time and a place…
a bank of television screens in a shop window, baggy jumpers and long hair, oranges for Christmas, a cold dark house where woodlice and mold would triumph…
There is almost nothing. Almost. Nothing to fix a thought upon. No true memory. No one idea. Just a twinge, an ache, that something happened, once was.
Jim fished for imaginary salmon, out in his back garden with a rod and live bait. We watched him and laughed as the line got caught in the fence between his shrubs and the fields.
Jim smoked a pipe and spoke wryly of the old times and how nobody understood his intentions. He always wore a hat.
Jim liked the children to come round on bonfire night with their lanterns made from turnips and bright smiles, but the mothers always moved them on. Jim was eccentric, creepy, strange.
Jim mourned his mother’s death and never got married. Jim died yesterday.
Archeologists discovered signs of large buildings here, perhaps a temple. Remnants of weapons were also found, including traces of what might have been poisons. Certainly battles were fought here. A small camp seems to have existed, with broken pots, pans and temporary shelters found all across the hillside near where a river once flowed. We can only guess what calamity wiped out all of those who lived in those times, and at the extent of the destruction, but, what we do know, is that it was the end of an era – of an empire – and of the start of another.
‘Pipes’ connect countless channels of overflow from East to West, Agencies say. Politicians have dubbed it a ‘super sewer’ and ‘filtrations’ are due to commence – the cost already upwards of £400m.
A communication from a group calling itself Stop the Shaft claimed, using Securities language, that the channels were only responsible for a tiny proportion of ‘human waste’ dumped into the ‘river of humanity’. The cost to the taxpayer is unjustifiable, they said, and the cost to Rights…
Agencies said the claims were ‘misleading’ and joked that the rest of the world would be ‘piped’ to hit their latest target.
From Siberia and the cold continent they arrive, to make home, however temporary. To eat. To survive. The Great Northern Diver. The Arctic Skua. Waxwing and Redwing. Snow Bunting. Short-eared Owl. Guillemot. Brent Geese in their tens of thousands, huddled in the cold mud of the grey estuaries, arcing over forlorn skies. Oystercatchers from Norway, stabbing the clay with flaming bills; Curlew, somewhere, it is rumoured. The great migrations of the world. While humans forge papers, dignity trafficked and stripped, never to be accepted, caged in a caravan, paying with their lives to survive and eat the carrion carcass freedom.
Field medics report, come in? come in? [crackles]
We are hearing you. What medicines do you require? Over.
Command suitable retaliation. Use aggressive force. Come in?
Use aggressive medicine? Over.
There has been an interstitial interruption between spaces of matter.
There are holes blown. We cannot hear, clear…
Receiving. Medic coordinates? Over.
10th parallel. There is a…
What medicines do you require? Over.
There is a, jesus [crackles]…
Actioning reinforcements. What medicines do you require? Over.
There is a… action aggressive, come in?
What medicines? Over.
There is a hole, jesus, all the way along.
10th paralell, over?
There was a flickering on the screen: a small dot heading towards the mainland. Intelligence said the dot came from Africa, but intelligence wasn’t everything. The dot was uncontactable – recognised signals were not received. Codes failed. Some said it was coming as part of a deal, a contra agreement with certain military or government agencies. Its looming shadow headed for the heart of the countryside. Grey warplanes shot through East Anglian skies – a deathly escort. But all was safe – the dot Nigerian and allied.
For the rest of the world, the buzz of rolling news, channels upon channels of silence.
Johnny had grown to love that old dog. After the yapping stopped, when it was no longer such a keen and overbearing puppy, when its occasional mistimed bark seemed endearing, some kind of grudging trust had been formed between them. Then, the dog went missing. Rumours were that another snarling hound chased it straight out of the neighbourhood. Some said they heard it howling to itself. Johnny set out to find it, enlisting young kids to patrol the local streets and flush the mutt out of hiding. It was too cunning to have died, but where was it? Soon, Johnny…
Stuffy and straightlaced, that’s a square. A word parents say, or are. Fearful, inward-looking, conservative, old-fashioned and boring. Boring most of all. That’s a square.
And the box shape of houses, dotted along roads. Little boxes with hats on, regulation size and order. Boring. Terraces and semis, square gardens, rooms.
Or the symmetrical flats and maisonettes, linked by decks of walkways, in rectangular slab towers of concrete. The sleek squares of modernity, left to crumble.
The squares where people meet, met, opening up the grey planning to communities. Puncturing repression and uniformity, letting people gather, think. What is square; who?
Batten down the hatches
Man the barricades
Prepare to defend your privilege
From the grenades of the betrayed
Send in water cannons
Baptise the unholy few
Shoot them with rubber bullets
But duck if they rebound onto you
Let sirens be of comfort
Reclaim the streets and the ‘feds’
Then raze the estates to the ground
And build a Tesco there instead
Let’s not look for reasons
Or concern ourselves with truth
Let’s just shout out ‘treason’
And blame it all on youth
Drugs will sedate them
Violence? Just self-harm
And if the prescription fails
Just carry on, keep calm